The daily terrorism against Palestinians in the West Bank relies substantially on the despair of Palestinians of the Israeli justice system. A case in point
‘Amira Hass wrote last week about the “quiet terror attacks,” the ones Israelis don’t hear about. They occur on an almost daily basis, and they are directed at Palestinian agriculture. Time after time, Palestinians’ trees are set on fire, uprooted or cut down. Time after time, it happens in an area that is under Israeli control. Time after time, it happens within spitting distance from Israeli settlements or outposts, that are surrounded by soldiers, policemen, security cameras and more. Time after time, the people responsible evade justice.
Hass noted that the attacks are quiet, because the Israeli media and the IDF are in cahoots to cover up what is, at best, military incompetence of the first rank and, at worst, aiding and abetting agricultural terrorism. But there’s another reason that these events fade into the background. Aside from the Israeli public’s disinterest in knowing what is happening in their name and with their tax shekels; and aside from the tendency of for-profit organizations who once were proud of saying that the public needs to know, and nowadays just prefer to avoid angering the buyers of the ads they envelope in text, there is another factor: the fact that Palestinians despair of reporting the incidents. Here is a case in point.
‘Abd Al-Razeq Mahmmoud ‘Abd Al-Karim ‘Amer is a farmer, residing in Qaddum, who is all too familiar with the dark side of the Israeli occupation. Every year his plot of land, situated near the settlement of Qedumim, is attacked on the eve of the olive harvest. He lodged several complaints with the Israeli police in the past, to no avail. In 2008, ‘Amer saw the vandals who ran amok on his plot with his very own eyes; the police investigator told him that does not constitute evidence.
One night last September, ‘Amer was asleep at home, when his sons shouted him awake: they could see, from the house, the fire and smoke arising from the plot. The sons and his neighbors called in the fire brigade, and tried to save what they could. The following morning, they could assess the damage: 27 olive trees, estimated to be between 40 and 45 years old, were burned; 70 saplings, about three years old, were broken. ‘Amer believes they were broken before the night of the fire.
But he cannot know for certain: as his plot is adjacent to the settlement of Qedumim, has no access to other than the two visits per year that he is required to coordinate with the army. The settlers, of course, have free access to it. Even if ‘Amer would encounter the settlers as they were destroying his saplings, there would be nothing he could do: the settlers are armed, after all, and aside from that they have the backing of the strongest army in the Middle East. Were ‘Amer to protect his property from them, in the best case scenario, he could find himself under arrest, and in the worst case scenario he could be yet another fatality of our forces’ fire, whose unfortunate death would be investigated long after everyone has already forgotten about it.
It was not a coincidence that the fire broke out just before harvest time: this is our dear brothers’ way of making it clear to ‘Amer and his ilk that there is no point in continuing to fight over the plot: anonymous saboteurs will reach it, year after year. Wouldn’t it be better to give up the dwindling property and the heartache, and emigrate – as did, for instance, many of the villagers residing next to the outpost ‘Adei ‘Ad?
‘Amer has almost given up. He is unwilling to waste the time needed to file a complaint with the police. After all, its failure rate in investigating damage to crops is more than 97%. This isn’t a coincidence; this is the commander’s spirit we’re seeing. And ‘Amer is not alone: time and again, we receive reports from Palestinians about incidents, saying they are unwilling to press charges because there is no point in that, but they want the incident to be published somehow. The chopping down of ‘Amer’s trees won’t appear in the statistics of the police, and therefore it will mostly fade away. It is an actual event, but the self-enforced thought-police of the Israeli media will negate it.
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